It's an ugly hunk of acreage with awe-inspiring potential.
When a newly appointed advisory committee gets up and running, it will look closely at the expanse of old mill site land stretching west of Coeur d'Alene along the banks of the Spokane River. What it is now and what it will eventually become is exciting to think about. A little worrisome, too.
Waterfront property, put in a conscientious public entity's hands, can do a lot of good. Look at City Beach and Tubbs Hill on Lake Coeur d'Alene, for example; Q'emiln and Falls parks in Post Falls. They're great examples of quality outdoor opportunities for all citizens. McEuen Park might also join that list despite a great deal of anxiety in the community over its metamorphosis and primary funding source.
While public entities should look for the greatest good for the greatest number of people, they must remember that sometimes, that includes private ownership. Beaches and parks are critically important to forward-thinking communities, but they don't pay the taxes - not like private residences and other developments on waterfront property do, anyway.
In the case of old mill land along Seltice Way near Atlas Road, complications like railroad and BLM ownership of some of the property muddy the picture for public and private interests alike. Keep in mind, too, that whoever ends up with this real estate is likely to have to spend additional money to ensure it meets environmental standards.
Our objective today is to encourage thorough examination of the riverfront property and its potential, and to offer a friendly reminder that all benefits must be carefully considered and weighed. Using the public's money to purchase valuable property is really only the down payment. Taking that property off the tax rolls and killing potentially terrific revenue streams forever shifts the tax burden for essential services like police and fire protection and street maintenance squarely onto the shoulders of existing property taxpayers - many who struggle just to keep up.
The city's advisory committee should have environmentalists and public-access proponents among its membership, but no more so than members watching out for taxpayers.